"You're Just Another Part of Me"

I personally don’t believe that Michael Jackson is dead. I think he faked his death to run from his $400 million debt.

The rest of the world is in mourning; Youtube and Facebook are knee-deep in a MJ tributes. I think his life is best summed up in the paragraph from the AP:

“He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his backward-gliding moonwalk, his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves and his high-pitched singing, punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove, tight, military-style jacket and aviator sunglasses were trademarks, as was his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.”


In the Legacy Air Museum last night I glided to MJ songs and a few imitators kicked their legs and crotch-grabbed off-the beaton the dance floor. In the shadows of the planes I didn’t want to battle them—that perhaps was their own tribute to the man. Being a dancer, I was always kind of aware of the impact he had on the world of dance, but it didn’t hit me how much he really impacted me until this morning while I was doing dishes and having a craving to listen to “Thriller.”

When I was a senior in high school I started dancing. And I mean dancing, not just go to a Mormon dance and pretend like I know what I’m doing anymore, but actually learning routines and footwork and break moves. At dances and parties people would look to me to start dancing to an MJ song, and I wouldn’t know what to do so I turned to the source and looked to Michael and I bought a music video collection DVD to learn.

After school in May of 2003, I would watch MJ dance and pop and twirl through the glare on the TV from the afternoon light. It was always sunny and the light would slit through the red cedars, but I was always only vaguely aware of it. I was more aware of the way the carpet burned holes in my socks as I tried to spin. I learned to pop my shoulders in the hours I spent in front of the TV. I learned to step to the 80’s pop beats of “Beat it” and “Thriller.” Hit the beat, hit the beat. I learned to spin and shuffle from “Smooth Criminal” and spent days trying to learn the routine. I had a lot of it down but I could never figure out the lean, the one move where he and the people behind him lean forward to an almost impossible looking 45 degree angle (Try it. It’s impossible).

I learned to rock the beat from MJ. Of the different styles of street dance, MJ had an impact on hip-hop, popping, locking, and house. He never did break, but I’m still dancing in his legacy.

It’s kind of funny how many of us dancers that are involved in hip-hop in some way have watched MJ videos at an early age—how many of us learned to grimace while dancing because “no one wants to be defeated.”

Crazy weird life aside, thanks MJ for the dancing.



You could be with me wasting your time.

Sitting in mission prep last Sunday, I realized something: the only thing I’m really good at—not just talented or gifted, but actually good at—is knowing the gospel and the ordinances of salvation. I don’t dare say I’m good at living the gospel because I am so flawed, but I do know how to anoint and give a blessing and baptize for the dead. I’ve learned the temple endowment (though I haven’t begun to understand its significance,) and understand the organization of the Church. I know the scriptures really well—I’ve been home from my mission for over two years and still know where to find support for whatever claim or problem. Being a church member (at least the logistical parts,) is something I excel at.

I don’t write that to brag, but to make a point. There is nothing I am better at than knowing the Church, but it’s not the thing I focus on most. Almost all of the time, I’m interested in Transformers 2 or new Animal Collective music or writing some crummy short story. I check my e-mail at least twice an hour when I’m on campus and my Facebook account almost as frequently. [Grammar question: should a comma have gone between “campus and”?] I've deliberately stayed away from Twitter because constant real-time updates of everything will be the destruction of productivity. I spend two, maybe three hours a night with friends, and then I read a few token verses of scripture at night to partially fulfill the commandment. Too often, my prayers are, “I’m sorry, God, but I’m really tired tonight. Bless so-and-so, though. Thanks.”

As a regular member of the church, I have never been consistent in my scripture study or prayers. I’ll do really good for about two weeks at a time at most. I plan blocks of time to study when I register for classes, but more often than not I'll take a nap or watch stupid YouTube videos.

Today, as I sat in the hot and sticky back seat of my family's 1984 Volvo sedan riding to my sister’s high school graduation, I remembered what I had asked my mission President Alan Ashton at his homecoming a year and a half ago about maintaining spirituality after I got home. I was in his Disneyland-like house and asked, “How do I maintain the desire to always be my best? What can I do?”

He replied, “Always read the Book of Mormon.” I was disappointed for a moment—I thought that he meant just keep up on your scripture study. Then he pulled out his Palm Pilot and showed me what he meant. “Whenever I get a free minute here and there, I open my scriptures on my Palm Pilot and read a few verses.”

Brilliant. The first chapter of Joshua teaches us to never let the book of law depart from our mouths, but to meditate therein day and night. Here is the single most Christ-like man I’ve ever met telling me how he got to be the way he is and how to apply it modernly.

I’d forgotten about that lesson until today. I have my iPod touch on my person constantly, which I used to read e-mail or get the updates to my RSS feeds or check Facebook. I have a few free seconds or minutes most of the day. Heck, I’ll sit and write during class because I’ll be bored; why not read the scriptures to try to be consistent for a while? Could it help?

I ask myself, “Why can I compulsively check Google Reader but not read my scriptures?” but I know the answer. I'd like to think that I can tap that compulsive nature to read the scriptures, but that's not really how God works. I'll probably be asking these same questions a year from now.



I love the WC blog. It’s how I wish my blog was, but it isn’t. Have you ever noticed how much blogs and high school class reunions have in common? (I’ve never been to a high school class reunion: I’ve just heard stories.)

Everyone says that the 10-year class reunion is the very worst. Everyone comes back, and while puffing their chests and lifting their noses, they reveal their successes over the last 10 years. I picture each person talking about himself in the best possible light—and then embellishing. The stories are a little too great. The personal successes a little too incredible. Not everyone can be a self-made millionaire in 10 years, right?

Sometimes that’s how blogs seem. The stories are a little too great. The family circumstances are a little too perfect. It reminds me of my old journals—the ones where I never had a bad day because if I did, people would know I wasn’t perfect. That’s how blogs are. Most blogs, anyway. And I’m afraid mine is the same way. But I can’t write what I really feel because people don’t want to see that. I have to be aware of my audience, right? But I’m a little too aware. Most people are a little too aware. And so I try not to say much of anything. I just post pictures and provide few words. And then I wonder why I have a blog.

I’m glad this blog exists because it’s real, and on this blog, I can be real, too.

P.S. School’s out for summer!


Vending Machines

The vending machine in Rigby Hall is a filthy liar.

I swear it hates me. It always taunts me.

I've been having a hard time eating regularly lately. Some weeks I'm consistent about getting breakfast. Other weeks I'm good at getting lunch. Dinner is always haphazard--6,7, 10, 11? I do the bare minimum to stay alive, so when I get hungry at work in Rigby Hall, I wander to the vending machines to get something to snack on.

But they lie.

They always say "swipe card" from far. But by the time I get near, they flash "cash only." What a dirty lie. I know from personal experience that you CAN buy things with your I-card at those machines--I've done it before.

I stand in front of the machines, leaning against the white brick, and wait for it to flash "swipe card" again. Nothing. I wait for 2 minutes, and nothing. I hide around the corner and it changes back to "swipe card."

In that moment, I rush out from around the corner and swipe my card, hoping that it will let me use it. I can almost hear the vending machine laugh at me, as it flashes "cash only" again, a cold, heartless rejection.

At least the drink machine loves me. I drown my failure in A&W cream soda.


"Balla" Wife

I'm no Michael Jordan--well, not in theory, but maybe in practice--and neither is Marisa. But man did we have an intense game of basketball last night on our 1' by 1' basketball hoop!

Marisa put up a good fight. In fact, probably too much. She threw me into the dresser drawer one time--rude! And threw some cheap shots. But I let her get away with it. The initial rules were fist one to seven, win by two. Marisa kept changing the rules on me though. Finally, out of the pure mercy of my kind heart, I told her I would play only with my left hand.

Eventually we both kept scoring so we had to make a "next point wins" rule. Now, I'm not Keven McHale in this picture getting smothered, nor Robert Parish sheepishly looking at what is about to happen; in reality, I don't even want to claim the famed Larry Bird because they're all getting embarrassed by one amazing ball player. I do, however, want to give some credit to my amazing wife. Yeah, you guessed it: she won. And her last point was close to what Michael is doing here. I'm not at all embarrassed thought because everyone reading this would probably get worked twice as bad as I did, even if you played with your right hand.


Last night I spent a few hours reading old posts from this blog. It was kind of fun to read the first post, and so on. The real origins are on blackboard, though. I wish I could read those posts, too. Reminiscing was nice for me. I liked hearing all your voices again.

Anyhow, I decided to give you all an update. Some of you I haven't seen in over a year, some I saw last week, some of you I haven't met.

Time has flown by for me. I'm a little over halfway through my Master's program, but it feels like I just started. I chose my committee last week, so as of now I'm on schedule to graduate in April 2010, but if I get burned out I'll put it off 'til August.

I'm also looking into Ph.D. programs. Most of the applications are due in January, so I need to choose a school, an emphasis, etc. I have mixed feelings on this one. While it'd be really cool to get my Ph.D., four more years of school doesn't especially appeal to me. Mostly I don't know what to do with myself after graduating for the second time, so I figure I'll prolong the school thing a while longer. I feel like I don't have to be a real adult while I'm in school. (I'm thinking about Purdue University--I like the idea of being in the midwest again.)

Right now I'm taking a Spring class. It's almost over. The Spring term ends June 18. On June 19 I'm going to a family reunion in Colorado. No one is supposed to stay at my Grandpa's house because he doesn't have room for everyone, but somehow I've become a family favorite, so I'm allowed to stay there. My immediate family will be there, too. I'm driving home with them after the reunion and staying in Georgia for the rest of the summer.

How about the rest of you?

Leanna--How is pregnancy #2?

Anona--Where are you? How is Sammy?

Julie--How is PA? Med School? life in general?

Em--How soon do you leave Nevada? How is Bradley?

Dan--Where are you? Why aren't you working for the Center?

Chan--What are you doing after graduation? I know a great little place in Provo you could live...

Everyone else--get on here and write. All of you.


[Title] by [Your Name Here]

We're writers. Sometimes we write because we like it, other times because we hate it but can't NOT write. It's a passion, a release, a journey, a constant discovery. We write because it teaches us about ourselves, and about the world, and lets us show the masses something about ourselves that we never could otherwise, and possibly about themselves, as well.

But aside from those lofty reasons, I would assume many of us have a similar goal: we want to be published. We want to see our name in print, and be able to tell our friends and family, "Hey, go check out my book/essay/poem at this bookstore/magazine stand/website."

Or am I the only only one who would enjoy that?

Anyway, the world of publishing seems almost as vast and confusing to me as the realm of writing, but this much I've picked up: It's easier to get published if you're ALREADY published. Which is an interesting dilimma, of course, but I'm about to make it even weirder.

This September a book anthology called "Gifts II" is coming out. In it, I have an essay--my first thing published that you can actually buy in a store. But here's my problem: it's an essay I wrote mostly in high school, cleaned up a little my first semester of college (long before my Writing Center days), and hastily submitted to an obscure magazine contest I got an email about (if that doesn't sound problematic to you, perhaps your high school essays are better than mine). Not surprisingly, it didn't win. I did, however, get an email from one of the editors, who said that it didn't work for the contest, but it was perfect for an anthology she was going to put together, and wondered if she could hang on to it for the next year and a half, since she hadn't even officially begun accepting submissions yet. I was delighted, and of course, accepted. And mostly forgot about it.

Two years later, while in China, I got an email. "It's been a long time since you submitted this; can we still use it?" Soon after began the editing process, and that was when I groaned. Looking at the essay now, I'd just as soon scrap the whole thing. Not having much time while in China, however, I just made the changes they requested, filled in a few parts that needed major help, and sent it back.

So now it's about to be published, and I could, in theory, put on future submissions that I'm a published writer. But it's something that I wouldn't want any potential publisher to look at as an example of my work. So what do I say? "Shannon Cooley is the author of ______ in ______, but hopes you will never go see it because she's embarrassed to have let something like that slip into the literary world." Probably wouldn't go over too well...

But someone thought it was worth publishing. Does that make poor writing worth claiming? Or should I just be glad it's buried in an anthology somewhere?


Maryland Highways and PB&J

I drive a lot. Fifty minutes to work. Thirty minutes to the gym. Thirty minutes to institute. Twenty minutes to church. Thirty-five minutes to hang out with people from the stake. I drive a lot.

Saturday night was no exception.

I became unengaged about six weeks ago, and since then I have been trying my best to be a productive Young Single Adult by dating. It is much easier now than before because there are quite a few more people back from school for the summer. On Saturday evening, I went on a third date with one, Karin Lund.

I planned on picking her up from her home, driving to Baltimore, eating at the Hard Rock Cafe, walking around the Inner Harbor, and then dropping her off at home. I began the chain of events.

I left my house just after 8:00, turned right onto 140, a slight right on 795, another right on 695, a hard right onto 70, left exit on 29, a quick tour on 100, a few small residential streets later, and I arrive at her house around 8:35.

After introducing myself to her five uncles who were visiting, we left and went on our way. I retraced the small residential streets, merged onto 100 again, and took 95 toward Baltimore. As we drove and told funny stories, I realized 95 was a goofy highway. (You see, when leaving Baltimore to go North, you need to take 95 South). I anticipated taking 95 and jumping onto 395 which drops us off in the middle of the city. I realized that I needed to be heading south on 95 towards DC to get to Baltimore to get on 395. So we flipped around and headed south.

Unfortunately, I got my 95s confused. From my house, in order to get to Baltimore, you take 140 to 795 to 695 to 395. In order to get to DC, you take 140 to 795 to 695 to 95 to 495. Had I really wanted to go to Baltimore from Karin's house, I needed to take 100 to 95 to 695 to 395, but it was too late to flip around again after my epiphany.

Knowing that Karin enjoyed a good sandwich, I changed our plans to go to Olney (where I work) and eat at a nice Mom and Pop sandwich shop called BJ Pumpernickel's. We continued south on 95, exited on 495, and hit 97 north. I also forgot how far south on 97 we were and we hit about four miles of lights. I thought 495 was much closer to 185 where all of the lights stop. And so we drove.

Finally, we found the 97 and 108 crossroads where I work at a Verizon Store. I drove by my work so she could see my little cage, then we headed to the sandwich shop. It was 10:02 when we arrived, it closed at 10:00. All we could do was laugh.

There was a Shopper's Food Warehouse in the same complex, we went inside and bought a loaf of bread, some peanut butter, and some grape jelly. After a fruitless search for flashlights, we went to the 24-hour CVS and purchased two glowsticks, a blue one and a red one.

Our new plan was to eat our homemade sandwiches at a park under a pavilion close to her house. We headed east on 108 for twenty-five mintues and retraced the same small residential roads, and found the park. To our dismay, it was occupied by a bunch of young hoodlums. With a spark of genius, Karin suggested we eat the sandwiches at a picnic table in front of Safeway around the intersection of 103, 100, and 29.

We spread out the plastic grocery bags for a table cloth, spread the peanut butter and jelly, and laughed.

I dropped her off two minutes past her midnight curfew (some things aren't too different from BYU-Idaho). As I drove away she came outside running and telling me to come back inside. Her dad (who is in the Stake Presidency) wanted me to come in and color a picture for Missie's birthday, Karin's little sister. I sat down at the table and started coloring, and every time I picked up a new marker I asked what color it was, she thought it was hilarious. After thrity mintues of coloring, eating M&Ms, enduring her dad and five uncles' comments and stories, I hopped into my car.

Once again I retraced the small residential streets, headed north on 29, merged onto 70, a left on 695, a light right onto 795, exited on 140, and turned right at the light to get home at 1:30 am.

It was wonderful.